"In a rather morbid study, Canadian researchers observed thousands of people for 12 years, carefully noting when they kicked the bucket. Not surprisingly, the super obese subjects died first, proving once and for all that all the video games where you gain more health as you eat more are not scientifically accurate."
Video game characters have long had the amazing ability to heal wounds through a good filling meal and/or a quick nap. One is left to conclude that the heroes in video games possess a Hyperactive Metabolism that quickly digests food and converts it to the necessary proteins needed for bodily repair.
Whenever one deals with a Hyperactive Metabolism, five main points show themselves:
As noted, eating (and sometimes even drinking) heals you, rather than just filling you up and giving you some energy. In many games, food is the primary medicine/recovery system of choice. If other healing items are present, however, food is usually a lesser healing item, only healing a few points, while more potent medicines and first-aid kits heal much more. Usually.
You seldom get full from eating food, thus leading to the conclusion that the food is rapidly digested. As well, waste matter from digestion is nearly non-existent, and going to the bathroom is hardly ever necessary. This could be due to rapid metabolization, converting most of it into energy and cells for recovery, or it could just be a Bottomless Bladder.
It seems that the proteins and iron present in meat are the best medicines around. Chocolate bars and carrots may patch up grazing flesh wounds and small lacerations, but pork chops, whole turkeys and entire barbeque roasts will stop arterial blood loss, heal punctured lungs and bring you back from the brink of death.
Salmonella and food contamination are of no concern to your powerful digestive system. Food found in garbage cans or the crumbling walls of ancient castles infested with evil is just as nutritious as a steak ordered straight out of the local diner. This is not as rigidly adhered to as other points, as some games may have rotten food found, and a rarer few may actually have the food you carry spoil if not properly prepared or stored.
When drinks are present, they often will restore mana or energy in the same way food restores health.
To accommodate the hyperactive metabolism of their characters, it is not rare to see players carry 28 cooked sharks and eat them in the middle of melee combat in less than 30 seconds. Some players even call hurt characters "hungry"; despite an advanced magic system, healing comes from eating.
A corollary to this is the near-universal practice of having vampirism heal the vampire, to the point where health-draining effects are often called "vampirism". In actual vampire myth, bloodsucking had no such effect; vampires only fed on blood as humans eat food. This could have tenuous justification, as their metabolisms aren't being judged by the human standard. A vampire sucking blood to heal himself could make sense, if only because we can't really deny it.
This is Truth in Television, though considerably exaggerated. Food's (original) point was to refill the body, and to give it fuel. People are told when they are sick to eat as much as they can (without throwing up), because a full stomach gives the body a more ready supply of nutrients. It is also a means for games allow healing without giving an idea of drug abuse as the hero takes medicine excessively to heal.
Power-Up Food is the trope when food provides benefits in addition to (or instead of) restoring health.
Also known as Health Food. See also Healing Potion. Contrast Wizard Needs Food Badly, where the food is just that; food to prevent starvation. When sleeping restores health, you may be at a Trauma Inn. Invokes Inappropriate Hunger.
Video Game Examples
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Aquaria not only makes food your primary method of healing, but has food which can give you stronger attacks, let you move faster, or even make you invincible. Medicine, meanwhile, only restores HP or cures status. Of course, they are all created by magic...
In Brave Fencer Musashi, the title character could consume mints to reduce fatigue, or food such as bread and oranges to restore health and bincho power. However, since time flows as a seven-day week, milk, bread, and oranges would spoil and restore very little health. The only items that improved over long periods of time were the cheese and the milk, the latter only after going "sour" and getting weaker first. Give it a little longer and it turns into "yoghurt" which is about five times as good as milk.
The early Castlevania games had Pot Roast, which looked much like any other eight-bit piece of meat, heal the hero. Even if you did find the meat in the walls of a cursed castle that looks hundreds of years old.
Or sconces. There's sconce meat as well as wall meat.
Later Castlevania games, notably the Metroidvania style, started giving you more and more food items, along with more typical healing potions, to round out your diet. The further the games went, the more varied the food items got. Portrait of Ruin has foods like Beef Jerky, Ground Meat, Grapes, Penne Arrabiata, and Cheesecake.
The Sorrow series, as well as Portrait of Ruin have rotten food items, and sometimes downright poisonous foods available to be picked up, though these would hurt you to eat them (some to an insane degree; apparently spoiled milk will have you hanging onto life by a thread). The Ghoul soul will let you eat rotten foods and still get healed.
The first incidence of unhealthy food in Castlevania appears to be Symphony of the Night's toadstool; wearing something that converts poison damage into healing makes these kind of useful after all. The peanuts, however, remain a giant pain in the neck no matter how worthwhile it is to catch the things.
The main health items in the game Die By The Sword are meat legs, breadsticks, and healing herbs, with healing potions the only drink. They all heal the hero instantly, and since the levels are continuous and segue into each other, and he never relieves himself during the game, this is also an example of Bottomless Bladder.
Below The Root is an odd example as your character needs to eat and rest occasionally to ward off fatigue. The game itself has no lethal enemies, so plain old fatigue is your worst foe. There are also a handful of "strange elixirs" that can boost your stamina.
God Hand, being made in the mold of the old-fashioned Beat 'em Up, has fruit for all your healing needs. In order of increasing effectiveness, there are cherries, oranges, bananas, and strawberries. In addition, pizza increases your God Hand meter when purchased from the game's store, smoothies increase your maximum health, and sushi lets you use more attacks in your combo.
It quenches his thirst and keeps him full in a desert environment, eating chicken legs and meaty foods only serves to make a man thirsty.
Kenka Banchou has two meters for health, one is the health meter which is self explanatory and the stamina meter, which determines your maximum health. Eating food ranging from baked goods to box lunches will restore your health while drinks ranging from milk to strong tea restores stamina. Even more potent are the energy drinks which heals both meters.
In NES game River City Ransom, the heroes would every so often visit shopping malls where you could buy everything from books (to learn new abilities) to food (with which you could heal yourself and up your stats.) This trope was carried to its esophageally unpleasant extreme as practically every sit-down restaurant sold the plates the food came on as part of the meal, which the hero... would promptly eat. All in one gulp.
And in the Japanese version. Turns out the stamina raising items was entire bags of high quality rice. Now picture the Heroes eating an entire bag worth of rice with natto.
In Primal Rage, it was your human followers who provided the health.
Tekken 3 for the Playstation 1 had Tekken Force Mode, which was sort of like a Final Fight/Streets of Rage type sidescroller, but done in 3D. You could eat whole cooked chickens to regain most of your health. The best part of that though, was the voice sample that played when you ate one. If you remember the announcer, you remember it. "CHICKEN."
First Person Shooter
Taken to a ridiculous length in Far Cry 2 - any bottle of water will restore your health completely. Even if you've been hit with an rocket and pummelled by a machine gun a single bottle of water brings you back to full health.
In BioShock, there are a number of comestibles that will restore your health and EVE meters, but only by a very small amount. Eating snacks such as potato chips and cream-filled cakes gives you health, while drinking coffee gives you EVE, and eating a "pep bar" gives you a smidgen each of health and EVE. Meanwhile, smoking cigarettes will give you a bit of EVE at the cost of some health, while drinking alcohol will give you a bit of health at the cost of some EVE. The gene tonic Extra Nutrition will give you more health from consumables, and the gene tonic Booze Hound causes you to gain EVE instead of losing it when drinking booze.
There is, however, a mild disincentive to drinking alcohol for health—drink too much in too short a time and the corners of the screen will become fuzzy and your movements will become drunken wobbles for a minute or two.
BioShock 2 superficially expanded the set of consumable items, adding not only more mundane food items like canned goods and cola but vitamins, aspirin, fresh water, and something called "Doc Hollcroft's Cure-All", which restores both health and EVE despite being, as an audio diary on the website reveals, a placebo.
Bioshock Infinite expands eating even more as you no longer hold medkits any more. Drinks such as coffee and soda restores Salts while alcoholic beverages increase health at the cost in intoxication and losing Salts. Cigarettes on the other hand, decreases health but restores Salts.
Deus Ex includes soy food, soda cans, candy bars, and at least three kinds of alcohol as various small but noticeable health restoration, on top of actual medical equipment. It's explained that Denton's nanites process the food instantly. A bottle of wine or vial of illegal drugs (the 2nd does not increase your health), for instance, would have your targeting reticule wavering in a circle for about 10 seconds, with more amplifying the effect.
You can also apparently repair four crippled appendages, a couple gunshot wounds to the head, and a severe chest wound by drinking from a water fountain. Or you could, if the water fountains didn't run out of water after a few seconds.
The sequel Invisible War does much the same, but homogenizes all the forms of food into one type of item regardless of what it looks like.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution partially justifies it. Adam gains back not health, but energy by eating protein bars specifically designed to be ultra efficient when consumed by augmented humans. There is also alcohol, which increases his health above the normal maximum of 100, up to 200, along with painkillers - as such, this could be considered as due to alcohol's anaesthetic effect, but it also works just as well for healing from near-death as boosting it above 100.
Team Fortress 2 gives the Heavy a "weapon" called the Sandvich. The Heavy has an unlimited supply of them and they restore 300 health per use, though the Heavy gets so enthralled with eating his delicious edible device that he becomes vulnerable to attack while eating it. He can also throw it on the ground (complete with a plate), which heals whoever picks it up for 50% of their max health. Instantly. Apparently stepping on the Sandvich is good enough when it comes to healing.
Scout also has two drinks that are full of sugar, caffeine, and radiation that, when drunk, take effect immediately and give him the ability to dodge all damage or have guaranteed critical hits (in exchange for being more vulnerable).
The Halloween event maps and party/Pyrovision modes reskin the standard health pickups as candy and cake, respectively. The "medieval mode" map Degroot Keep reskins the 50% health pickup (the only one built into the map) as a leg of lamb or something, though strangely enough, the 20% health pickups that are programmed to spawn on every successful kill are still standard pill bottles.
Wolfenstein 3D lets you recover by eating the dog food left for the attack dogs, or the chicken-and-vegetable dinners which have been conveniently left all over the prison floor. Additionally, if the player's health drops below 10%, you can regain 1% of health by ingesting pools of blood mixed with presumably human bones. Its modernised sequel, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, features "hot meals" of turkey in addition to "cold meals" of cheese and cold cuts, though this time they're actually on tables.
The health items in Action Doom 2 Urban Brawl are all various types of food, from soda to chickens, which recover varying amounts of health. Like the entire game, it's a homage to beat 'em ups from the 1990s.
Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven allows you to heal yourself with wall-mounted first aid kits. The animation played implies that a single cotton swab was used to dab at the wounds, however half of your health is replenished when the animation ends and the first aid kit cannot be used again.
Mafia II subscribes to this trope. While being shot will eventually just heal itself after a few seconds, damage slowly chips away at your maximum health. Eating and drinking (both, in that order) will return your max health. Lampshaded during conversation:
Vito: "Who is this doctor, anyway?"
Joe: "Some guy who patches our guys up for a bit of money without asking questions. Why do you care, anyway? You heal up from things really fast. Must be your diet."
The primary method of health restoration in Postal 2 is by eating food. There are also medkits, which are naturally more effective than food items, but they can't be picked up and brought with you when you need them. The best healing items are crack pipes, which instantly boost you 25 points above the normal maximum once smoked, but after a few minutes you lose that bonus from withdrawal unless you smoke another one. Additionally, if you have boosted health you can't pick up more food.
In Duke Nukem 3D and Duke Nukem Forever, Duke could regain lost health not only from obvious health power-ups like first aid kits, but could also regain some by urinating into toilets (up to 10%) or by taking drinks from sources of water, which would give back health at a rate of 1% per sip. You could even combine these two by smashing the toilet after you were done with it. If you were really desperate, and had lots of time, you could get to 100% health this way even if you were down to your last hit point.
Zombies TC, a Game Mod for Doom, replaces health bonuses and stimpacks with candy bars, hamburgers and sodas.
Hack And Slash
The Dynasty Warriors series uses meat and steamed buns as its healing foods of choice. Coincidentally, Zhuge Liang (a playable character) is traditionally credited with inventing the mantou, a plain steamed bun with no filling (these days; it may have had meat originally).
In sister series Samurai Warriors, it's dango (small rice flour balls on a skewer) and nigiri (rice shaped in a triangle and half-wrapped with a thin sheet of pressed seaweed).
The Atari game Dandy (a predecessor to Gauntlet) uses food as health replenishment pickups; it's even called simply "health food" in the manual.
Averted in the MMORPG Everquest, your character required food and drink, or your character did not regenerate Health (food) and Mana (water). Certain foods, however, provided statistic boosts if it you in the top slot of your inventory, although not if you actually eat it. Played straight in Everquest II, where not eating or drinking has no consequences, and eating or drinking does increase your out-of-combat regeneration AND your statistics - not eating or drinking ultimately means taking a much, much longer time to recover after a fight.
Mabinogi has this. Your stamina, which affects your ability to fight, use combat skills, or use other skills, is affected by your hunger. There are potions in game to restore stamina; but the amount they restore is strongly affected by your hunger level. The more hungry you are, the lower your maximum stamina. There's also the issue that using too many potions at once will give you an overdose and you lose health/mp/stamina depending on the trait.
Eating certain food affects your weight, either gaining or losing depending on the food.
Runescape is especially stupid about this: eating 28 whole sharks in 5 minutes is not only non-fatal, it's actually healthy. In contrast, a bad kebab can kill you if you're not lucky. And your character has a bad habit of eating pointy fish like lobsters and swordfish fast enough that it should do at least as much damage to you as the enemy's sword.
Even used in Star Trek Online, however food heals over time (a short enough time that it still qualifies for this trope) and can only be consumed out of battle. Still, it often leaves one wondering just exactly why that Klingon had an Ice Cream Sundae in the middle of battle, or why the Borg even have food at all.
In World of Warcraft, eating food restores health, while drinking various liquids restores mana. A few restore both, or grant other effects like temporary stat bonuses or a chance to burp flame in combat. Eating food and drinking liquids takes place over time and requires your character to sit and do nothing but eat and drink, while drinking potions is an instant effect with an animation. Note that healing magic also exists in the game, and classes without mana obviously have no need to drink; thus the need for these items varies depending on your character.
The Burning Crusade expansion pack hangs a lampshade over this, with a NPC (named Griftah) selling trinkets that (supposedly) enable the player to "magically" heal wounds via consuming food or drink, "swim in any water", or "return from the dead", among other things. For extra hilarity, he was banished from Shattrath for one patch cycle while the authorities investigated him for fraud.
Similar to the Bioshock example above, drinking too much alcohol in too short a time gets you drunk. How quick you get drunk depends on the level of alcohol in the drink. After getting drunk, your screen becomes blurry, your character wobbles and walks in the wrong direction, and everything you type into the chat log sounds like slurred speech... from a drunk. And don't even try to fly while drunk...
Get too drunk and mobs look to be a few levels lower than they actually are, what's the tuff guy? That 30 foot giant wants to pick a fight and you're the same level? Sure go for it.
Ragnarok Online while being a normal fantasy MMO with the use of potions for healing does also have a good deal of food in it too. Below, say, level 40 meat is a more economical way to regain health than the cheapest potions if you can manage carrying the weight and while not being particularly useful you can still eat apples, bananas, or carrots (including juice if you've got the bottles for them) to fill your HP bar and oranges fill your MP. There is no limit to how much you can eat.
Conker in Conker's Bad Fur Day has health in the form of pieces of chocolate. Minor injuries make him lose one piece, major ones make him lose them all. By the time he's invited to a creepy vampire's mansion to have dinner, he gratefully accepts, glad to eat something besides large pieces of floating, antigravity chocolate.
The early DOS Duke Nukem games had cola as a health item, along with a turkey leg. Shooting it would upgrade it to a full turkey. Duke Nukem 2 had an interesting spin, as one health powerup was a live chicken that moved fairly quickly. If you were quick enough to shoot it with your laser, it would roast the bird, and the resulting meal would give you double the health the regular chicken did.
In the beginning, Kirby had Pep Brew (partial healing) and Maxim Tomatoes (full healing). Later games have various food items that give back varying amounts of health. And gods help you if he eats Hyper Candy!
When meat appears, it's the most potent healing item below the Maxim Tomato.
The Maxim Tomato appears in Super Smash Bros., taking off 50% of the damage you've taken (which is not necessarily taking half-full healing).
In the first Super Smash Bros., a Maxim Tomato healed 100% damage; Melee and Brawl saw this reduced to 50%.
"Delicious" became a minor meme on Something Awful Let's Play runs of Kirby games whenever Kirby would down a healing item.
Arguably this is a series where everything counts as food, so it makes sense that "healthier" food would have this sort of effect.
Although the game N does not have food, it does explain the ninja as having a hyperactive metabolism, thus explaining the 90 second time limit on all levels. This metabolism is handled a different way, however: collecting gold grants 2 extra seconds to the time limit apiece, explained as a rush of joy which contributes to well being.
In Psychonauts, you can use Pyrokinesis to roast squirrels, which will heal slightly when eaten.
Super Mario Bros.. Apparently, eating Mushrooms makes Mario become twice as tall and take more damage. In the RPGs, this is played even more straight though, with the various food items certain chefs can cook healing various amounts of damage, and odd items such as a golden leaf still healing a minute amount of damage.
The Lost Vikings has tomatoes, carrots and various meats as healing items. Each of them heals 1 hit point, except for the giant meat slice, which heals 2.
ToeJam & Earl has a wide variety of food items that heal you to varying degrees, generally corresponding to the tastiness or richness of the food (e.g. a hot fudge sundae will heal you more than a bowl of cereal). It also features Poison Mushroom-type items which take the form of rotten foods, or a few stereotypically unpleasant "healthy" foods, like cabbage.
Wario Land series. Garlic is apparently the heal all substance for Wario, even when your source of garlic is roughly equivalent to 'beat up enemy by shaking them to make them drop a three foot by three foot clove of garlic that heals instantly'.
Averted in NetHack, where food merely keeps the character from getting dizzy and weak and eventually starving to death, and healing is accomplished only through time or magic. Also, there is a strong possibility of food being spoiled or tainted, especially if it's been lying around for a while. Not only that, but your character can choke to death if he eats too much. Nethack is not a game for the faint of heart.
But not completely averted: the ring of regeneration grants you this ability, as it heals you at an alarming rate, but causes you to burn through your rations at an equally alarming rate.
It's also possible to die of heartburn by eating an acidic corpse when your hit points are low. On the other hand, eating a carrot while blind can restore your vision, and a sprig of wolfsbane cures lycanthropism. Certain other foodstuffs can raise your strength or intelligence.
Mayflight, like N above, does it with something other than food - In its case, 'Sparks,' which extend your natural life from ten seconds by between 2 and 0.5 seconds each.
All food, when consumed, will heal 1 HP a turn when consumed in Dungeons of Dredmor and different foods take different lengths of time to "digest", unless you are a Vampire (in which you gain the ability to eat enemy corpses for health) or a Vegan (in which you are penalized for eating meat, eggs and dairy).
Role Playing Game
Baten Kaitos also uses food as healing items. One interesting change is that the food here does spoil, and cleverly the rotten food be used to damage or poison baddies. Averted in Origins, where the only healing items are potions, bandages, and magical artifacts.
All Boktai entries had food as healing items. Starting with Zoktai (Boktai 2), all food items had a freshness meter that wears down over time. At least in the early going, fruits and meat had a strong effect but ran the risk of growing stale (which could still be consumed, but had a much weaker effect AND made you sick messing up the screen whenever you moved), whereas potions had a lesser effect but never went bad.
Lunar Knights expounded on this further by allowing you to "process" items based on the local weather. Carrying meat around on a hot, low-humidity day caused it to dry out, for example, which not only made it more effective but also prevented it from going bad in this new state. Likewise, soda could freeze into popsicles when the temperature went sub-zero. Chocolate also melts when enough time passes, and as it does so, it combines with whatever item you have in the inventory slot below it: most items only end up producing chocolate-covered versions of the original item which would never go bad (though all chocolate sealed items had the same appearance so you would have to remember what item was in what chocolate blob), but some of them become a lot more effective this way, such as fruit and milk (the latter turning into milk chocolate).
Square Enix's iPhone RPG Chaos Rings used various types of Chocolate as healing items, which makes some sense. Chocolate heals a little, while Gateau Chocolate healed a lot, which makes less sense.
While Chrono Trigger doesn't have food items that restore health, eating a meal in Guardia Castle will allow you to fully restore your HP, MP or both. Drinking "special water" in 65 Million BC does the same.
Also contains an inversion, to emphasize what a Crapsack World the After the End time period is like, you are always given the message: "But you're still hungry..." after being healed by the machines.
Averted in the Nintendo DS RPG Contact. Eating food heals wounds somehow, but there's also a meter that tells how full your character's stomach is—eat too much too quickly and you won't have room for anything else for a while. This even roughly corresponds to the type of food you've eaten; a whole roast chicken will take a lot longer to digest than a cup of coffee. Moreover, certain foods will give status bonuses while they're still being digested: meats will give strength and stamina bonuses, fish will give intelligence bonuses, and soda gives you a speed bonus.
Divine Divinity has foods to eat, some which can heal, others might temporarily increase your stats or other things. You can eat only limited amount of them in a certain period of time, though, since the character will complain that s/he's full if you eat too much.
Food is the sole variety of healing item in EarthBound. The more expensive foods heal better, and you can buy condiments that increase their effects—if the combination is bad, such as hamburgers and sugar, it doesn't heal much; if it's good, such as fries and ketchup, it is very effective.
And while we're on the topic, Ness and friends are perfectly fine with eating food they find in garbage cans.
The trope is also partially subverted with Poo, who heals drastically less HP when eating "western" foods, compared to Ness, Paula and Jeff, which is explained as him not being used to the taste. Poo doesn't get a bonus when eating "eastern" foods, though. He's also the only character that can make any real use from bottles of water (which restore PP. Ness and Paula only recover 6 from the bottles, and Jeff has no PP to restore.)
To top it all off, cups of noodles bring you back from the dead, or at least from being a ghost.
MOTHER 3 also deserves mention. If you keep a bottle of fresh milk in your inventory for a while, it becomes rotten and heals an insignificant amount of health. If you keep it around even longer, though, it turns into yogurt, one of the best early healing items.
Used in The Elder Scrolls series, where "eating" different alchemical ingredients have different effects. Most food only restores your fatigue. Daedric hearts, on the other hand... When Level Grinding the Alchemy skill, it can be a viable tactic to eat over thirty pounds of meat in one sitting. Furthermore, the player can consume, among other things, random fungi, precious gems, ebony, scrap metal, and even glass, shaking off any ill effects in seconds.
Averted at least a little; many random fungi have negative status effects.
In the expansion pack, it may be a bit disturbing to suddenly realize that the pile of dust in the ancient ruins you've been contemplating eating for status buffs is actually the vaporized remains of a dwarf.
If you abuse the Fortify Intelligence Alchemy trick in Morrowind, then make a potion that recovers health, it is possible to make a potion that recovers more health that you have as a maximum for a ridiculously long period of time. Until it wears off, you'll be able to survive anything that doesn't instantly kill you in one hit and still have full health.
One book in Oblivion explains that you don't eat it, rather it's a magical chewing technique...
In Skyrim this trope is played straight as all food restores health. This is especially true at the beginning of the game as food is easily obtainable for free and the character hasn't accumulated enough stuff to make the food's poor weight to healing ratio a problem.
Because food is eaten instantaneously from the menu screen, many players will do things such as ingesting 30 entire wheels of cheese in the heat of battle.
In Fable II. Food items heal and higher quality foods drop experience, and were generally cheaper than potions, but also affected the hero's look and status. Meats were cheaper and had better benefits but caused the hero to get fat and corrupt, whereas assorted fruits, veggies, and tofu were generally more expensive but kept the hero thin and pure.
In Fallout 3 this is played straight. Drinking water and eating food restores your health, even if said food is 200 years old. You do have to worry about the food and water being radioactive, though that is rarely a serious concern anyway since there are lots of anti-radiation meds and doctors that can heal radiation. However, food and drink provide quite a small amount of health, providing from 5 to 20 points in a game where it is not uncommon to have a total of about 300 hit points, meaning you require a full meal to heal moderately. It's much better to use stimpacks for healing, especially as they have no weight, as opposed to food items.
Previous Fallout games humorously point out that the pre-war food you find is suspiciously well preserved. Presumably it is practically indestructible, being absolutely jammed full of preservatives and then presumably irradiated.
You can actually get a perk called Fast Metabolism, it halves your poison and RAD resistance stats, but you get twice the health boost from food and medicine.
Fallout: New Vegas plays with this trope; food becomes a lot more useful than in Fallout 3 as it heals you over time rather than instantly and the effects can be stacked with a wide variety of food you'll find in the Mojave (and even cook if your Survival skill is high enough!). And since stimpaks have become rarer and more expensive, Food will be your main source of health for a good portion of the game. Also In Hardcore Mode, you need to regulalry eat, drink and sleep to stay alive and averts Trauma Inn completely unless its an owned bed.
In Odin Sphere, food doesn't just give you hit points, it gives you experience points (to increase your HP level; attack power is leveled up through different methods). Food items do take various lengths of time to digest, but these lengths can be measured in seconds.
Medicine is used to heal in Parasite Eve 2, but refilling MP requires spring water. Water: It will make your mitochondria heal faster!
Don't forget your delicious Coca-Cola. And for some reason, a bag of artificial blood solution is a full restore of both attributes.
Food serves as weak healing items in Persona 3 and 4. It's rarely worth using in comparison to medicine-type items, and in Persona 3, many food items also have additional adverse effects. Persona 4 does have one easily missed yet useful food item, and the food items that your team members give you throughout dungeons are often more effective.
In Pokémon Gold and Silver and beyond, there are various berries with various healing effects (restoring HP, curing paralysis, curing a burn, etc.) They can be used immediately on your Pokémon, or held by them for when they're needed (using a held item in battle does not use up a turn). In Ruby/Sapphire and beyond, you could replant berries to make berry trees, which could yield up to 5 berries, meaning a skilled enough harvester could save money on healing items by going organic.
In early generations, there was the headscratcher that was the Fresh Water item. Used like a traditional healing item, it healed a Pokemon for a level on par with the Super Potion (50 HP), but cost a fraction of the price (200 PokéDollars for the water vs. 700 for the Super Potion). Besides the simple fact that drinking water seems to be a restorative, it raises the question of why water heals 2.5 times more health than the most common potions found in the game, which are themselves 300 PokéDollars a pop.
Other drinks, including soda, lemonade, and milk, have similar restorative effects. It should be noted that since Pokédollars are just Japanese Yen in the Japanese versions of these games, 200 Pokédollars is roughly only 2 US$, Super Potions are roughly 7 US$, and thus the difference doesn't seem too unfathomable.
In the amateur game Sensible Erection RPG the end boss points to the existence of this trope in their world ("How could hamburgers cure gaping shotgun wounds?!") as evidence that they live in a computer game.
In Soulbringer, food items (specifically: apples, bread, fish, chicken, and ham) are the earliest healing items. Herbs and mushrooms can occasionally do the same thing, but most often they have other benefits (and if you're not careful, certain types can have debilitating effects). Sadly, potions soon become more cost and weight-effective. It's oddly entertaining to stop a fight to scarf down a whole baked chicken for a instant health boost.
The game also has alcohol... but the protagonist can't hold his liquor well. After one bottle of wine, your movement becomes wonky. After two bottles of wine or a few mugs of ale (which restore health... two points apiece), you get heartily sick and vomit (losing health).
Star Ocean uses food for mostly healing, medicine also makes its way into the game as healing items but they are more like to be antidotes and cures.
Averted and played straight in later Tales games. Cooking food heals a portion of HP and TP depending on the dish and the skill of the cook, but this can only be done outside of battle, and once you've cooked, you can't do it again until you've been through a fight or slept ("Come on, we just ate!").
Aversion: Ultima Underworld (and its sequel) track hitpoints and hunger separately. While food does not provide any healing, if you begin to starve (several game-days without food) you will lose hitpoints.
Witchers in The Witcher are explicitly noted as having an odd metabolism.
This also goes beyond food to explore point 4 a bit - Witcher's potions (which use fuckoff-strength alcohol as a base and go from there) are noted to be lethal to normal people, and even the player can overdose if they drink too many at once.
The World Ends with You featured an interesting aversion. Food can be consumed to increase the stats of Neku and his partners. When eaten, food gives an immediate boost to the "sync rate", a variable stat that helps in in-battle combos. Food is then digested in "bytes", which are digested at a rate of one per round of combat. Upon fully digesting the food, it gives a permanent stat bonus (or another sync bonus.) The catch? Until buying a special item available only after beating the game, the game keeps track of the bytes you've digested. You can only digest 24 bytes in one real-time day, and after that point the character is too full to eat anything that required more than 6 bytes (most high-end HP/BRV and all ATK/DEF/Drop Rate chow).
In Monkey Hero, slices of peach pie restore 8 peaches of health. Mushrooms fully restore your health and can double as an Auto Revive.
Dubloon uses various meats as healing items that can be eaten even in the heat of battle to instantly restore health, even if it's a huge turkey leg.
A very old example of this is the IntellivisionDungeons & Dragons game Treasure of Tarmin. Repaining health required using a rest button which took several units of time and one unit of food, in the form of flour sacks scattered through the dungeon.
In the Epic Battle Fantasy series, restoratives and buffing items are all food. Coffee can bring people back from the dead. Characters will occasionally make remarks when you feed them, such as Natz worrying that she'll gain weight.
In Kolibri, Kolibri regains health by sipping nectar from blossoms. This is justified as Real Life hummingbirds are famous for having a very high rate of metabolism.
Also averted in Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon - food effectiveness ranges from near-nothing to some HP/RP regeneration, awkward stat changes (Cheesecake boosts your intelligence!) and elemental attacks and resistance...but eating a slice of Toast will make you too full to eat anything else for half an hour. (This is dependent on the type of food, of course - a whole Seafood Pizza pushes the limit to three and a half hours.)
SimAnt abstracts food-energy and health into a single meter that runs down over time, runs down faster when you're fighting, and replenishes when you eat those little green balls that make up the food in the game.
The Metal Gear games had you recover health by eating rations up to MGS 2. In MGS 3 and MGS:Portable Ops more conventional first aid is used to recover health. Rations and other food is used in an arguable more realistic fashion as a means to recover stamina. Food that is kept too long will go bad. Spoiled or poisonous food will make you sick and deplete your stamina. This can be avoided using long lasting food such as rations, or keeping captured animals alive in cages so their meat doesn't spoil.
The sequels play with the trope a fair bit: the second game establishes that rations taste fairly terrible, and in MGS 3 rations restore very little stamina in contrast to 'real' foods like instant noodles.
MGS 3 plays with this trope quite a bit in that Snake can recharge the batteries on his equipment by eating glow-in-the-dark mushrooms. It's possible to radio your support team about this interesting development, but they all think you're just crazy.
MGS 4 takes this to a ridiculous extreme; instant noodles heal all of Snake's health... uh, instantly, and rations do the same but can also be equipped to restore your health if it's reduced to zero. Old Snake can eat, digest, and heal to perfect health from a ration pack in the time it takes him to die from being shot.
Averted in Project Zomboid, while eating will increase healing rate, only time and rest will increase your health.
Eating food in the first three Alone in the Dark games is the central, if not only, way to regain lost health - except that "food" in this case usually translated to "flasks of liquid courage". The second and third games were so loose with the liquor from enemy drops and static pickups that protagonist Edward Carnby must go from simple Badass Normal to Drunken Master.
While the ground-up herbs in Resident Evil may have been used as a poultice, there's no mistaking what's being done to heal yourself with the uncooked eggs or uncooked fish in Resident Evil 4.
And even less mistaking in RE 5, where animations have been added for various item usage - when you eat an egg, your character cracks it on their right hip and casually gulps it down. Herbs appear to be ground up and put in a spraying devices to be sprayed over the body like first-aid sprays.
Rare rotten eggs do appear in both RE 4 and RE 5, if you eat them don't expect it to help matters.
In Rule of Rose the healing items manifest in the form of various sweets and pies.
Third Person Shooter
In the third person shooter Gun the only method of health restoration is drinking whiskey which you keep in a side flask that holds a few gulps (each gulp restores you to full). It becomes particularly absurd in hard places where refills are scattered around (or in at least one case where they respawn) and you are left wondering not only how he can still shoot straight, but how come he doesn't have to pee. It is made even better by the comments the enemies make about how you can't hold your liquor.
The primary healing item in Rune is food: Apples, huge legs of meat (up to a couple feet long!), tankards of mead, even live lizards. Ragnar eats them quite enthusiastically too, bolting down all of it seemingly in a single mouthful and tossing whatever's left to the ground (especially biting the heads off lizards Ozzy-style).
Don't even talk about that if you manage to lose an arm, eat a leg of meat, and it grows back instantly!
Turn Based Tactics
Odium, among its healing items, has the "food" item, which restores 20 HP.
The vast majority of the healing items in the Disgaea series are food, usually sweets of some sort. Among them, there are some oddities like barbecue sauce as a MP restorative.
Wide Open Sandbox
In the first two Saints Row games, you can chow down on fast food in the middle of combat to restore your health.
The primary healing item in Dead Rising is food as well, and it has some realistic properties. Cooked meat heals more than raw meat, and raw meat will spoil if carried too long, for example. Infinity mode (which you unlock after beating the game) makes eating the very object of the game, as starvation will slowly sap your health points.
Also, there are unrealistic properties. One example is mixing orange juice with coffee creamer in a blender will give you a speed boost for some reason.
In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, CJ can heal by eating meals at fast-food restaurants or by purchasing snacks. Ingesting lots of food will fatten him up much faster than should be possible (eating too much at one time will make him puke though, keeping the health, but losing the fat that would have been gained), or conversely that exercising will make him lose body fat and gain muscle ridiculously quickly, could also be taken as evidence of a most unusual metabolism. Niko in GTA IV can also regain health by eating food, but he does not get fatter.
In No More Heroes, opening your fridge and staring at all the food in it restores all your health. You can also break open purple boxes and eat the pixelated pizza inside them to restore your health. Your bladder is not bottomless, however - you save your game by going to the bathroom.
Of course, the fridge is actually useless, as it can only be used during the free roaming part of the game, a time when Travis cannot be hurt anyways.
In Prototype, while Alex does have a Healing Factor, he gains health back much faster by eating people and his Healing Factor can only heal him up to half of his max health. More powerful victims like Hunters and Leader Hunters restore a huge chunk of his life bar when eaten.
A rare example where it makes perfect sense, as Alex's anatomy is nothing like a human's one and most likely he can directly replace the missing/damage parts with the absorbed biomass.
Although Tony Montana in Scarface: The World is Yours doesn't get to consume food as a means of restoring health, he can pay to use a "blood bank" and instantly regain health by just having a blood transfusion. He can also urinate at dumpsters to regain a bit of health.
Medkits in Dead Island are rare, so you'll have to rely on the energy drinks, candy bars, and fruit scattered all over the island for health. Energy drinks in particular are extremely common; it's a wonder how the player character can down eight cans in a row without suffering from a heart attack.
Mafia II plays this trope straight with Vito, but Joe lampshades it YMMV slightly.
Non-video game examples:
An ad for the relatively healthy fast-food chain Subway shows a platformer character doing this with more traditional fast food, and consequently getting too fat to fit through gaps.
Anime and Manga
Parodied in the anime film The Castle of Cagliostro. Lupin III is severely wounded and seemingly comatose, when he suddenly awakens and demands large amounts of food to restore his strength. In the middle of gorging himself on a veritable feast, he suddenly turns green, stops eating, and whispers that he'll sleep now. Played straight in that he does indeed soon have his strength back.
Allen Walker from D.Gray-Man. After a long, hard battle, he starts binge eating. One can assume that he has an extremely Hyperactive Metabolism when, even after eating a gigantic pile of food the size of a room, he is seen remaining rail thin.
Explained as he's a parasite-type innocence user, technically, he's eating for two, Krory's also been alluded to having this appetite when he's not snacking on Akuma blood.
While perhaps not demonstrating healing capabilities, in the Dragon Ball series, Goku is repeatedly shown to have a bottomless stomach that allows him to consume a positively ridiculous amount of food. In addition, this food completely replenishes his health while not slowing him down in the slightest. In fact, that energy gained by Goku from eating more than his weight in food tends to make the difference between winning and losing a fight.
And then you have the senzu.
Luffy from One Piece seems to operate on this system, adhering to all four points: not only is he seemingly capable of eating nearly anything he finds with no apparent ill effects, he has a preference for meat of any kind, which seems to recover more health and energy. At one point he eats a couple of chicken legs after being wounded, and it is pointed out that he's doing this in order to recover from some of the damage in a pinch. Also, he can eat to the point of becoming a giant ball (being made of rubber may help that part) and digest everything in seconds, returning to his slim appearence.
Also, Brooke can heal rather quickly by drinking milk. Granted, he is a skeleton, and only needs calcium to heal, but he still heals way too fast.note Interestingly, the fridge logic of him drinking anything at all is somewhat averted, as his powers not only include coming back from the dead (once), but also the ability to eat, drink, see, think, and, yes, poop without any organs.
There's also a technique for this trope. Is called Life Return, was used by Kumadori after eating all the food in the fridge in which he was locked. After using the technique he became slim, and then adquired his normal appeareance.
In Fairy Tail, while not exactly food to the rest of us, Natsu Dragneel heals completely and gains a burst in strength after eating fire.
The same goes for Gajeel and Wendy is they eat iron or air respectively (breathing does not count).
Pretty much the main method of increasing one's strength or recovering from wounds in Toriko is to eat something... or someone. Given that the entire series is based on eating the most delicious food in the world, it's not that out of place.
The inspiration for the The Flash example below, Wally West, during his time as the Flash would be see pigging out on various high carb foods (usually by downing candy bars or tons of fast food) because his super speed would cause him to burn through the calories dangerously.
In the So Bad, It's Good fanfic "WOlfenstien Comeback'', the titular "Wolfenstein" demonstrates this trope in the first chapter, with the added bonus that rather than actually putting the food in his mouth, he absorbs it by touching it in true video game fashion.
Back in the froom that Wolfenstein was currently in at that time he jumped on a nearby table and the food osmosised into his body and instantly heeld him because that is how he eats.
Engineereds in Duumvirate eat quite a bit more than a normal human, particularly if they're regenerating severe wounds.
Various monster novels have brought this up on an actual biological basis: the energy from the food fuels the monster's (often a werewolf) enhanced metabolism. The down side is that if they don't eat lots of food often, they begin to starve quickly.
Justified in the Percy Jackson series with ambrosia and nectar, the food and drink of the gods that is used for healing severely injured demigods. If a demigod consumes too much (or a mortal has any amount whatsoever), the power is too great and will incinerate them from the inside-out.
In Eragon, casting magic consumes body energy/stamina, so a mage who just cast an energy-intensive spell will probably be pretty hungry. On the other hand, unless the energy is replenished from either another being or a gem that was previously filled with energy, it requires rest to regain.
The Piers AnthonyXanth novel Crewel Lie features Jordan the Barbarian, whose magic talent is a Healing Factor that requires large amounts of food to work. To the extent that when the scattered bits of his skeletonized corpse are brought together at the end of the book, he has to have bread crammed into him to regenerate.
In the live action adaptation of The Flash, Barry Allen's super speed caused him to consume enormous quantities of food (sometimes he even had to eat at super speed).
Played straight in the Doctor Who episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp". The Doctor is poisoned, and his Time Lord physiology enables him to neutralize the poison with a combination of various salts and proteins. Of course it just looks like he's gobbling everything he can find in the kitchen.
Play By Post
On the forum game Apocalypse Metropolis, all players only have four slots of health, which meant getting shot was equal to getting punched. To heal these wounds, eating food restored a slot, even if it was a sandwich or soda. Actual healing items would often do more than one slot at least. On a similar note, splitting up food (like drinking half of a soda so someone else can have a half) decreased the chances of healing.
GURPS contains bioengineered ultra-tech pills that rapidly heal injuries and even radiation damage by giving you Hyperactive Metabolism for a short time.
The Western-themed card game Bang! has a "Beer" card that heals a player after they've been shot.
Played straight in Alien Dice; however, the 'food' was not exactly organic material, and has odd and often medical properties.
Kid Flash in Young Justice has to keep up his strength by eating constantly to offset the fast-burn from his super speed. Once he's eaten he's immediately ready to go, rather than having to take time to digest it.